CIWM responds to COP26 agreements

The Chartered Institution of Waste Management (CIWM) has responded to some of the agreements made throughout the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) across the past week.

The industry body has asserted that, in spite of what climate experts are considering a last minute ‘watering down’ of the ‘Glasgow Climate pact’, there is still hope that the Paris 2015 target can be achieved. In order for this to occur, however, CIWM urges for waste and resources to be prioritised within the global political agenda.

COP26 GlasgowCIWM President, Dr Adam Read, commented: “Whilst unfortunately we cannot say that COP26 has secured 1.5C, unanimous agreement on revisiting emissions cutting plans, increasing financial support for developing countries and, for the first time, phasing down the unabated use of coal are positive steps that should give us some hope.

“Whilst it was disappointing not to see waste and resources better represented on the main agenda, it was hugely encouraging to witness the sector proactively discussing practical action it can take to accelerate the development of the circular economy and battle climate change at a host of ‘fringe’ events. It is clear those working in the UK waste and resources industry are committed to moving to a world beyond waste and driving change despite the apparent lack of recognition on the international stage.” 

Adding climate change to the national curriculum

CIWM has recognised the importance of several agreements throughout the event, including commitments to reduce global methane emissions and the increased uptake of sustainable fuels. One item of legislation welcomed particularly warmly was the announcement that climate change education is to form a part of the national curriculum.

Announced by Education Secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, the statement was read out in a speech at COP26 which asserted that primary school teachers will be supported in the delivering of climate change education by 2023. Pupils will also be able to participate in a newly announced Climate Leaders Award under the proposed curriculum, which will recognise their work in protecting the local environment, aiming to nurture their skills in sustainability and biodiversity in the process.

These measures develop on the Government’s pledge to ensure every school rebuilt by the Department of Education operates with net-zero emissions. One way in which the Government plans on achieving this is through rolling out zero-carbon Energy Pods, which are claimed to provide heating and hot water using low-emission solar energy – this technology will initially be tested in schools and eventually rolled out into other public sector buildings if pilots prove successful.

Furthermore, all Further Education teachers trained through an apprenticeship will be required to integrate sustainable teaching into their lessons from December 2021 – this will involve ‘modelling sustainable practices and promoting sustainable development principles in relation to their subject specialism.’

The proposed changes form part of a draft sustainability and climate change strategy, the final publication of which will take place in April 2022 after a six month probationary period. The rollout of this legislation falls under the Government’s commitment to keeping education ‘at the forefront of sustainability’, meeting national targets of reducing emissions by 78 per cent by 2036 and arriving at net zero by 2050.

Commenting on the announcement, Dr Read said: “This increased awareness and engagement at a young age will play a vital role in ensuring the waste and resources sector has the necessary skills to move the world beyond waste and drive a greener, more circular economy for the future.”

Education Secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, said: “We want to deliver a better, safer, greener world for future generations of young people and education is one of our key weapons in the fight against climate change. Empowering teachers in every school to deliver world-leading climate change education will not only raise awareness and understanding of the problem, but also equip young people with the skills and knowledge to build a sustainable future.

“The COP26 summit has further amplified the UK’s commitments to become a world leader in sustainability right across the education system by engaging young people and bringing them on our journey towards net zero and a green future.

“And it goes beyond the classroom – our National Education Nature Park and Climate Leaders Awards will let pupils get hands-on experience of understanding, nurturing and protecting the biodiversity around them.”

UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education, Stefania Giannini, said: “For the future of our planet, we need to learn for our planet. We welcome the United Kingdom’s commitment to climate education through its efforts to place sustainability at the heart of their education system.

“New UNESCO data found only half of national educational frameworks have a reference to climate change in them so we are partnering with the Department for Education for today’s event at COP26 where global education leaders will be able to make pledges that set out how they will tackle climate change through education in their countries.”